Hundreds Attend Funeral for Slain Sheriff's Deputy
Family and friends along with hundreds of law enforcement
officers attended a funeral today at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A. for a sheriff’s deputy who was gunned down outside his home in Cypress Park.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Juan Escalante, 27, was shot to death on August 2 as he was leaving to go to work at Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles.
Officers carry out the flag-draped casket of Sheriff's Deputy Juan Escalante
Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Councilmembers Dennis Zine, Wendy Greuel and Bernard Parks, and Police Chief William Bratton also attended the two-hour funeral service along with officers from all over the Southland including Downey Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Port of Los Angeles and Glendale Police Department.
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A lone bagpiper exits the church as deputy sheriff's salute
The media was asked to stay outside.
During the service, Villaraigosa paid tribute to the fallen deputy, who he noted worked 40-hours a week as a janitor during high school and gave his mother half of his paycheck. Escalante also served in Iraq as an army reserve officer.
Escalante became a sheriff’s deputy two and a half years ago.
He was described by a pastor as “fair and just with inmates and they respected him back.”
After the service, white-gloved officers carried Escalante’s flag-draped coffin out of the cathedral as hundreds of deputy sheriff’s watched and saluted.
Escalante's wife leaves the cathedral with her children and family
For four hours, part of Temple Street was closed down to traffic.
Detectives have not figured out the motive behind the slaying but they are not ruling out that an inmate who had a beef with Escalante killed him. The deputy worked in a particularly dangerous unit that put him in contact with Mexican Mafia members who rule the streets including Cypress Park from behind bars.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke during the two-hour funeral service
However, cops also said they can’t rule out the possibility that a personal grudge provoked the killing or that Escalante may have been a victim of mistaken identity.
“There is always the possibility that it was a mistaken identity,” said another law enforcement official. “He could have been mistaken for a gang member. He was a young male Hispanic. Unfortunately in LA that makes you a target.”
Sheriff Lee Baca was among the mourners. He also paid tribute to the fallen deputy.
The police said they are following several leads but are hoping that the public will provide them with additional information about what happened.
Witnesses told detectives they saw a white or silver Honda drive towards 27-year-old Escalante before he was shot. Escalante, his wife and three children were living at his parent’s home while they were getting ready to buy a house in Pomona.
Escalante was not wearing a uniform at the time of his death.
The early morning shooting occurred within a block of the shooting death of alleged Cypress Park gangster Marco Salas who was gunned down by Avenues gangsters in February. The gunmen ended up in a shootout with LAPD gang detectives a few minutes later. An Avenues gangster, who was wielding an AK-47, was shot to death by police.
The Los Angeles City Council is offering a $75,000 reward for
information leading to the arrest and conviction of Escalante's killer. The county Board of Supervisors also approved a $20,000 reward in the case.
LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky
The funeral was followed by burial services at Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello.
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